A while back, my friend Rachel who lives on a small farm in the Willamette valley sent me a picture of a thirty-five pound turkey that she roasted for Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s right, 35 pounds. I had no idea that such a big turkey even existed. The picture was so beautiful it could have been a centerfold in a poultry trade magazine. The turkey was festive and grand: it was quite plump and had a lovely golden brown color that made my mouth water. Rachel’s neighbor raised it in a flock of 35 turkeys, so she saw the turkey often before it ended up in her oven on Thanksgiving Day.
I was mesmerized and looked often at the pictures of this majestic turkey on my phone. This turkey lived its life as a proper turkey should – scratching around in the grass of a barnyard for slugs, bugs, and other tender morsels that turkeys like to eat. It was able to socialize and bask in the warm sunshine. I’m not the envious type, but I found myself coveting Rachel’s turkey. I wanted a big pasture-raised turkey too!
But then I remembered . . . in my lifetime, I had cooked only one turkey. When I was in my early twenties and had only rudimentary cooking skills, I bought a turkey with a built-in pop-up timer. Well, the timer did not pop-up and the turkey got way overcooked, like cardboard. There wasn’t anything juicy about it. Decades later, I was still gun-shy to cook a turkey.
My friend Dave suggested that I find a pasture-raised turkey of my own and then buy an oven thermometer with a probe. I could insert the probe into the turkey and an alarm would sound when the correct temperature was reached. Ah! No more guesswork. No more cardboard.
I found a place ‒Oregon Valley Farms‒ that could ship a frozen turkey. I looked at the company’s website and was pleased to learn that they carefully raise their turkeys in pastures. With great excitement, I ordered a 22 pound bird.
Three days later, FedEx delivered the turkey to my doorstep. I unpacked it and was surprised to see it was still frozen rock solid. Every time I opened the freezer, I was filled with joyous anticipation of a holiday feast.
Finally it was Christmas morning. I made a triple batch of stuffing, inserted the thermometer, and waited for the results. I felt curious. Was this beautiful pale-brown big bird going to be any different than its factory raised cousin with the bleached white skin? Stay tuned next week to hear the rest of the story! I’ll be sure to tell Rachel, too.